Each year, the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ greater Detroit chapter
honors southeastern Michigan’s most dedicated volunteers, philanthropists, and fundraising professionals with its annual awards. Hour Detroit is pleased to partner with AFP to introduce 2021’s slate of charity champions ahead of National Philanthropy Day on Nov. 21.
A programming class that Maansi Nema took to fulfill a requirement during her freshman year at Novi High School turned into a life-changing journey that she hadn’t foreseen. “I ended up loving it,” Nema says. “After I took that class, I realized I definitely want to do something to get more women interested in STEM.”
That led Nema to develop a STEM night for K-6 students as her project for the Girl Scouts’ Gold Award, the organization’s highest achievement. Its overwhelming success triggered a community conversation about equity in the career field and led Nema to host more STEM nights. She founded her nonprofit, STEM Without Boundaries, in 2019 to continue to equip high schoolers to host STEM nights to inspire more children to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Hour Detroit spoke with Nema, now a freshman at the University of Michigan — studying engineering, of course — about her passion for all things STEM.
How do you go about your STEM efforts?
Maansi Nema: We train high schoolers across the country to host STEM nights. Because of the pandemic, we had to create a new, virtual curriculum and we held 20 virtual STEM nights. We have 21 chapters in 11 states and two countries, so it was pretty cool to see all of our chapters host a virtual STEM night to interact with younger students. I’m incredibly proud of our team.
How challenging is it to run a nonprofit and be a freshman in college?
It’s definitely a lot of work, but I’m up for the challenge. A huge part of it is also working as a team and knowing that I’m not doing every single thing. We’re a team of 54 students, so everyone is working on different things, but we’re all working toward the same common goal, and our board of directors works incredibly hard.
What’s your vision for STEM Without Boundaries?
We’re working on a career series on YouTube so students have an opportunity to learn more about careers that might not be as well known — for example, civil engineers or naval architecture, things people don’t really think of when they think of STEM. You can’t be something that you can’t see. But the long-term vision is to have a chapter in every single community and every single community has an annual STEM night where their community comes together for students to get interested in STEM.
This story is part of our Give Detroit package and is featured in the November 2021 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more stories in our digital edition.